Wedding Pros, let’s talk. Last year, at a major industry conference, a fellow Wedding Planner suggested that new Planners price shop their fellow Planners in order to set their price. I was in the room when this was said, and I just about fell out of my chair. Or, actually, I felt fire come out of my ears, experienced a sort of black-out state, and then left the room.
All I could think was, “Did I REALLY just hear this well-respected industry stalwart tell us to PRICE SHOP each other?” To say I was flabbergasted is a severe understatement. I was (and remain) disappointed and desperate to correct this horrible advice.
What Does it Mean to “Price Shop”?
For those of you reading who have no idea why I’d be so upset by this, let’s unpack it a little. Price Shopping in action looks like this: You receive an inquiry from (what you think is) a potential client, and they ask about your pricing straight away. They have no interest in talking to you on the phone, they just want pricing info. Sometimes they will flat out ask for a brochure, PDF, proposal, etc. Then when you send it, they disappear. They don’t answer any further emails, ever.
Sometimes potential clients DO behave this way. If they do, those probably aren’t your ideal client. But sometimes, and with the encouragement of the earlier mentioned industry leader, these emails are coming from your fellow Wedding Planners, trying to figure out what you charge. They almost always use a general Gmail email (like Kate2020wedding@gmail.com), and they provide very few specific details about their actual wedding. Because it’s fictional.
This is a completely disastrous way to go about your business. Let me break it down for you further.
Why Is Price Shopping The Absolute Worst?
- It’s not going to yield you any really useful information. I don’t give pricing information out without a meeting first. Emailing me to get my “packages” will get you nowhere. I don’t have packages, everything I do is custom. I base my pricing off of what my clients want, and what I know they will need. Nothing is cookie-cutter over here, so this line of inquiry will not yield the results you are hoping for.
- It’s not a smart way to set your pricing. Just because you know what a fellow Planner is charging doesn’t mean that that business is profitable. I know plenty of Wedding Planners in my market who aren’t making a living wage, let alone a profit. The only way you should be determining your price is by what YOU need to make a living. Check out Kristin Kaplan’s Pricing Workbook to determine your true pricing. Then learn how to sell yourself. (That’s a whole other blog post.)
- It’s very easy to spot. If you do this to your fellow Planners, 99% of the time, you will be found out. We are a tight-knit group, at least in my market. If we suspect someone is price shopping, we spread the word. You don’t want to be known first and foremost in your fellow Planners minds as a sneaky person.
What You Should Do Instead
This is going to sound so simple, but just…ask. Seriously. Spend some time getting to know your “competition” as a human being first. Make a concerted effort to actually become friends. Approach them at networking events. Comment positively on their Instagram posts. Refer your other Wedding Planner friends on days that you’re already booked. Truly become a friend and an ally.
And then just ask them, honestly. “How much are you charging right now, ballpark?”
AND THEN DON’T USE THAT INFORMATION TO UNDERCUT THEM.
What is “undercutting”?
Look, we live in the real world, and as business owners, we have the freedom to do what we want with our businesses. I am in no way suggesting we should all be charging the exact same price. That would be price fixing, and I’m not about to anger the Federal Trade Commission. When competitors agree to restrict competition, the result is often higher prices. Accordingly, price fixing is a major concern of government antitrust enforcement. A plain agreement among competitors to fix prices is almost always illegal, whether prices are fixed at a minimum, maximum, or within some range.
However. Once you have the trust of your fellow Planners, and you share openly and honestly about what you’re charging, you cannot in good conscience knowingly charge significantly less for a similar service. Please notice I said significantly less. A pricing difference of within $500 is normal and expected. Charging several thousand dollars less is undercutting.
A Word About Competition or Learn to Practice Community Over Competition
You may have noticed that I used “” around the word competition earlier. This is because I don’t believe that true competition should be an overwhelming factor, at least, for Wedding Planners. Here’s what I know for sure: Every one of my Wedding Planner friends is excellent at what they do, but they all serve different ideal clients. In that photo above, Jessica plans for the “bold and rebellious” at Art & Soul Events. Gabby specializes in adventurous weddings off the beaten path at ‘Cause We Can Events. Holly, my #workwifeforlife, plans bold and colorful weddings at Anything But Gray Events. If we are all marketing our services correctly, we are attracting VERY different clients. Competition doesn’t matter if you’re working within a niche.
Community over Competition is an ethos you may have heard in the past few years, in no small part from Rising Tide Society and Honeybook. I’ve been a Leader for Rising Tide for nearly four years now, and I’m proud to say that Community over Competition is something I believe in strongly. CoC doesn’t mean that competition doesn’t exist. But it does mean that our Community is stronger than any momentary competition.
If you’re looking to give yourself a raise, or if you’re new to the industry and are setting your first pricing, please…don’t price shop. Do your homework, use the Pricing Workbook, and be smart about your business, and your friends.
Wedding Planners, let me hear from you in the comments. Have you ever been price shopped? I want to hear about it below!